A proposal to build a sewage treatment plant for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School has resurfaced at a newly revised cost estimate of $1.5 million.
The school committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its meeting next Thursday, Jan. 3 at the high school. The meeting is set for 7 p.m.
The proposed sewage plant was removed from the budget amid uproar earlier this month from high school students and teachers over proposed drama and music program cuts.
Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss says the project was pulled due to the need to get firm cost estimates before formally presenting the project for approval.
Estimates have fluctuated since the project was first proposed.
Oak Bluffs wastewater superintendent Joseph Alosso initially estimated the cost of the plant at about $1.4 million. But Richard J. Barbini, president of the Oak Bluffs civil engineering and surveyor firm Scholfield, Barbini and Hoehn, later said the cost would be closer to $2 million.
On Dec. 14, however, Mr. Barbini wrote a letter to Mr. Weiss that detailed project costs and placed the project’s overall price tag at $1,491,000.
The project would tie in the new plant to the Oak Bluffs wastewater plant on Pennsylvania avenue, and may later connect with a planned Martha’s Vineyard YMCA that would be built off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. No signed agreement, however, yet exists between the school and the YMCA spelling out their respective responsibilities.
If approved by the committee, the proposed plant will appear as part of the Vineyard high school budget on warrants for annual town meetings in the spring.
Mr. Weiss insists that the project is essential.
“The high school is at its limit,” Mr. Weiss said last week. “There is a calculated number of bathroom facilities you can have [with a septic tank] and the high school has reached it. We can’t add a bathroom or even a faucet.”
He added that the Rebecca Amos Institute and the horticulture program, both part of the high school, are operating without bathrooms. “I think this is even against regulations at this point,” he said.
Amy Tierney, assistant to the superintendent for business affairs, applied for a bond that originally was intended to pay for the wastewater project as well as a new fleet of buses.
Since bond fees range from $25,000 to $40,000 Mr. Weiss hopes to include the two items on the same bill as a way to save costs. A figure for the first year’s bond payment will depend on a finalized estimate, but the bond structure will mean the cost will be staggered over 15 years with declining payments.
If approved, the first payment installment will be an adjunct to the budget which was approved Dec. 3 by the high school committee.
The high school has been grappling with wastewater concerns for at least a year.
An earlier proposal to fund a mini-wastewater system at the high school was rejected by Oak Bluffs voters.
“It was basic, but it would have done the trick,” Mr. Weiss said. “They would have wheeled it over to the school prefabricated.”
Apart from the financial considerations — the town of Oak Bluffs would have footed the bill for the project — abutters to the proposed site at the high school objected to the plans and the project was shelved.
The current sewage plant proposal came out of a neighborhood need to treat sewage. In addition to the YMCA, the nonprofit organizations Island Elderly Housing Woodside Village, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and the Martha’s Vineyard Arena may all look to benefit from the system.
Under Mr. Weiss’s proposal, however, the regional high school will alone be bonding the costs for the system.
The bonding terms limit financial contributions from a privately owned company to 10 per cent. But Mr. Weiss hopes that an after-the-fact tie-in arrangement with the Y can be reached.
“We need to come to a deal with these guys at this point,” said Mr. Weiss of the Y, with whom he hopes to seal an agreement ahead of presenting the final costs to towns.
The Y plans to build a 35,000-square-foot center on land owned by the high school. Under the terms of its approval by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the YMCA is required to treat its wastewater. Due to delays in fundraising, the start date for the $14 million YMCA project has been pushed back to the fall of 2008.
Mr. Barbini’s new estimate calls for just over $1 million for the 14,500 linear feet of sewer mains, which would run from the high school to Oak Bluffs wastewater treatment site on Pennsylvania avenue in Oak Bluffs and back to the high school’s existing leaching system.
Two other principal outlays would be for pump stations at the high school and Oak Bluffs, costs for which Mr. Barbini estimates together at $325,000. The remaining costs would cover modifications to the leaching system and at the Oak Bluffs treatment plant and manhole cleaning.
Some school committee members have expressed concern over the timeline, which envisions construction as a three to four-month project.
As a municipal venture, the wastewater system is required to be advertised for competitive bidding. The Oak Bluffs wastewater commission has given the project a green light; approval is still needed from a brace of other local permitting authorities.